Statement of

Diez de Abril Community, Altamirano Municipality, Chiapas, on the 15th of April 1998

To the people of Mexico
To international civil society
To the National Commission for Mediation
To the Commission for Agreement and Peace
To the national and international human rights centres

The inhabitants of the village of Diez de Abril in the Municipality of Altamirano, Chiapas, make public the events which occured in our village on the 14th of April 1998.

At approximately 5 pm about 800 members of the following police forces arrived: the State Public Security, the Mexican Federal Army, the Federal Judicial Police, Migration personnel and two agents from the Interior Ministry (Ministerio Publico), all of them accompanied and guided by two people who wore Public Security police type uniforms and whose faces were covered with balaclavas. These two were recognised and responded to the names Mario Alvarez Vázquez and Artemio Vázquez. It is worth mentioning that the previous day, Monday the 13th, the Public Security Commander Abimael Torres Sánchez was here with 60 members of this force. He asked to speak to the village authorities and demanded to see the passports of the people participating in the civilian peace camp. Before leaving he threatened to return with Migration officials.

Some people from the village were gathered at the unsurfaced road with the intention of preventing the Mexican federal army from passing, a strategy which had been agreed by the communities of the region to avoid more violations of human rights like those which happened at the beginning of January in the community of Nueva Esperanza.

Without warning, the Public Security police fired above our heads and then threw tear gas to disperse us and enter the community. Advancing, they beat children, women and men on the head, legs and back with spiked sticks, gun butts and truncheons.

When we cried out that we want peace and that they should leave us alone, they immediately replied that 'the government does not want peace, it wants war'.

It was noticed that several of the police had red eyes, as if they were drugged. When asked to respect our human rights guaranteed by the Constitution, they again replied with insults and threats, saying: "those articles are worth &*%@& all*". Some women were sexually insulted by the police and soldiers, some of whom spoke Tojolabal, others Tzeltal and others Tzotzil.

José Alfredo López Méndez, 17 (a minor), was arrested and savagely beaten, dragged and stripped while being taken by the police to their vehicles. When he appealed to others from the community for help, one of the police put the barrel of a gun in his mouth, thus forcing him to remain silent. The mother of the boy and the women of the community tried to rescue him but they were driven back by shoves and blows from the Public Security police.

Three Norwegians from the civilian peace camp were arrested.

Having overcome the resistance offered by the people of the village, the police split up and, without warrants, began to break into the houses, destroying and robbing the belongings of each family (a list of belongings is attatched).

While running away, a five year old child fell from a rope suspension bridge into the river. He has still not been found.

They set one house on fire and partially burnt it, cut the community's electricity supply cables, sacked the women's cooperative shop, took medical instruments, books and seven boxes of medicines from the clinic and seized 5 000 pesos which had been donated to the community church.

In the face of these events, the community of Diez de Abril demands:

1. The immediate release of José Alfredo López Méndez, who is imprisoned.
2. Full investigation and punishment of those responsible for both the carrying out and the planning of these events.
3. Payment and compensation for the goods taken and destroyed.
4. An end to the reression of indigenous communities.
5. That the rights of the indigenous peoples be respected.
6. The complete implementation of the San Andrés Peace Agreements.

Yours faithfully,

C. Carmen Gómez Sántiz
Auxilliary Municipal Agent of Diez de Abril.

Total value of goods seized and destroyed 264 755 pesos

Translator's note: the list of goods seized and destroyed will be included in a subsequent version of the translation.

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